Workplace diversity should be a fundamental principle of any business, yet the measures taken to achieve it have too often tended to address the surface rather than truly transformative action. Two forces are at work: the desire for equal rights and opportunities for people of all cultures, genders, ages and races; and the way this desire is realized in various personal and professional situations. Some companies perceive diversity in the workplace as an obligation imposed from outside: They may hire candidates based on demographic considerations and report favorably on their internal workplace diversity yet continue promoting the same employees. Sometimes, they don’t even understand that anything is wrong.

“Diversity hiring” has revealed the implicit bias among many people toward those who differ from them. Some people fear that hiring for diversity will favor certain demographic categories over real qualifications for the job. However, this thought process undermines the systemic challenges that have held minorities back from achieving equal access to personal and professional opportunities.

Addressing and eliminating this bias will require a complex approach, an essential part of which could be the use of a 360-degree feedback assessment to evaluate employees’ skills.

What Workplace Diversity Is, and Why It’s Important

Diversity has become a commonplace term, but some people still misunderstand it, especially regarding diversity in the workplace. To put it most simply, workplace diversity means hiring diverse individuals. But diversity involves more than multicultural matters. Individuals can have different races, genders, religious beliefs, educational backgrounds and more. A broad spectrum of characteristics should be considered and represented in the company’s staff at all levels. Why?

In addition to the general good of respecting all people and treating them as equals, businesses gain many benefits from workplace diversity, including:

  • Increased employee creativity and engagement

When you bring together people of different backgrounds, experiences and perspectives, they generate many more ideas and innovative solutions. This can be valuable in all departments, from marketing to tech support. And people who see that they are appreciated will be more engaged in their work and achieve better results. For example, 83% of millennials are more engaged when working for a company that fosters an inclusive culture.

  • A better understanding of customers

Imagine a company that hires only men but sells products for women. Hiring women would save them a lot of trouble and expense! Another potential benefit of workplace diversity is discovering new groups of potential customers. Your employees represent a variety of people — including those you never thought would be interested in your product.

  • Increased employee retention

A company that provides workplace diversity creates an environment in which employees feel that their identities are accepted and valued. If people see that they can develop in their career no matter their skin color, gender or sexuality, then they are more likely to work for the company longer.

How 360-degree Feedback Assessment Ensures Workplace Diversity

A 360-degree feedback assessment is a method of evaluating employee performance. It’s “360 degrees” because human resources (HR) and training specialists collect feedback from everyone around an employee at work: supervisors, peers, subordinates and even the employee being assessed. All of them share their opinions about an employee’s competencies, skills and other characteristics, depending on the objective of the assessment. The final result might look like this:

Companies that don’t practice this evaluation method usually collect feedback on a person only from their supervisor. The results are much more subjective and open to the bias of a particular supervisor. As a result, career development often becomes a privilege for employees who match specific criteria that might have nothing to do with professional skills or knowledge.

A 360-degree feedback assessment ensures workplace diversity for at least three reasons:

1. Diversity of the method

A 360-degree feedback assessment offers a single objective image of an employee’s performance, derived from many subjective impressions — it presupposes hearing and equally respecting all voices, not just those of the superiors.

2. No human factor

The human factor can mean anything from an honest mistake to neglecting professional duty for emotional attachment. Traditionally, this and prior evaluation methods would involve interviews and filling out questionnaires, with the results manually analyzed. Modern tools allow training professionals to conduct 360-degree feedback assessments online and stay out of the process; they only need to create survey forms and assign them to interviewees. The software will do everything else, thus saving time and effort and decreasing the influence of a human factor.

3. Statistical outcome

A bias is hard to eliminate. But if the staff are confident that HR is using purely objective methods to assess their performance, then there’s a bigger chance that they will accept the strong and weak sides indicated in the evaluation results. The statistical results of the 360-degree feedback assessment convince even the most skeptical employees of the objectivity of the assessment process.

Other Ways the Results of the 360-degree Feedback Assessment Can Be Helpful

The main objectives of performance assessments are these:

  • Identify the actual skills of employees.
  • Detect the strong and weak points of a company’s team.
  • Find the candidates who are the best match for the position.

Evaluations are not verdicts. They aim to identify what employees need to work on to improve in their job, and whether they are in the proper position for the most effective work. In building an inclusive culture within the organization, 360-degree feedback assessments can also help you find staff members who still have biases about the people who differ from them.

Someone might, for example, believe that people with intellectual and developmental disabilities () don’t have the needed skills to work in the company. When filling out surveys about colleagues with IDD, they will answer based on their attitude, not facts. It’s impossible to detect compromised feedback after one assessment, but, if conducted regularly, it may reveal a pattern.

Even in this situation, though, the evaluation isn’t a verdict. It simply demonstrates to you the challenges your team faces, prompting you to find a solution — such as assigning an employee to take a course, and giving them more information about people with IDD and their capabilities.

In Summary

Workplace diversity shouldn’t be perceived as a politicized or merely formal obligation. In many ways, workplace diversity is beneficial for business. Perhaps the biggest challenge for any company in building an inclusive culture is overcoming biases. A 360-degree feedback assessment offers a partial solution. It can help you carry out the promotion process with objective data and identify your team’s issues. An effective training module can help you solve these issues, eliminating bias and increasing the productivity of your team and your overall business.